Saturday, November 29, 2008

And This Weeks "Nice Going Klutz" Award Goes To.....

Ohio Police Chief Shoots Himself While Teaching Daughter Gun Safety

Saturday, November 29, 2008

MONROE, Ohio — Police in southwestern Ohio say a police chief mistakenly shot himself in the thigh after giving his daughter a gun safety lesson.

A police report says 54-year-old Middletown police Chief Greg Schwarber was preparing to clean his Glock .45-caliber pistol on Friday and didn't realize the gun was still loaded.

The report written by officers from neighboring Monroe says the bullet entered Schwarber's leg just above the knee.

When officers arrived, they found the chief lying on the floor with a towel covering his leg. Schwarber was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The hospital had no record of Schwarber being treated or admitted. A home phone number for him couldn't be found

Reminder: Venus-Jupiter and Moon Conjunction

Just a quick reminder that Venus and Jupiter are converging in the western sky after sunset. They are the two brightest things out there, no telescope necessary. Their closest approach is tomorrow night (Sunday) but based on the forecast for Racine, you might want to check it out tonight.

Sunday night (if you catch a break in the clouds) the Moon will be below the two planets and Monday night the crescent Moon, Venus and Jupiter will be spectacularly close together.

If you have a pair of binoculars, try them. You should be able to see Venus is not a circle, but has phases just like our Moon. You might even catch a moon or two of Jupiter depending on the size of your binoculars.

And to wet your appetite, here is an image from sure to go there and check out the other photos!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Football in 3D!

3D television is the next big revolution and December 4th, the NFL is going to broadcast the Chargers-Raiders game in 3D. Unfortunately, it is the Chargers-Raiders game which means you probably won't be too disappointed to learn that it is only being broadcast to theaters in New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles (and only big muckety mucks are invited).

In answer to your question, yes, you still have to wear the silly glasses!

Reminder: Buy Nothing Day is Today

Okay, I slept in and with the time zone out here, this is probably way too late for most, but today is Buy Nothing Day, a day to strike back against conspicuous consumption and maybe even to remember Christmas is about more than getting loot (or so I am told). Besides, the best bargains are going to come later as desperate retailers cut prices.

So relax and enjoy the day (easy for me to say...partly cloudy and getting into the mid 60s here today!)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Napoleon Dynamite and the $1 million Netflix Challenge

I listened to last week's edition of On the Media and heard they did a piece on the Netflix Prize. The Netflix Prize is a $1 million prize being offered to a team who can improve the engine that drives the Netflix movie recommendations by 10%.

For the unititated, when you rent from Netflix, you can rate the movies you rent. Netflix then recommends movies you might like based on your answers. That's how they keep you coming back. You can imagine it is pretty important to have a good recommendation system.

There are several teams getting close to the magical 10%, but progress is very slow. It turns out that one movie accounts for 15% of all the missed recommendations: Napoleon Dynamite. That just blew me away: Out of the tens of thousands of movies, one accounts for 15% of the misses! Most of the rest of the errors are caused by a few similar quirky indie flicks.

If you can figure out how to predict if your friends will like Napoleon Dynamite and write some comptuer code, you could be on your way to $1 million!

flying turkeys

Wild ones fly

Make Sure Your Turkey is Tender Today

That's a BUTTer ball turkey!

Mayor Becker to have Cancer Surgery

Best wishes to the mayor for a full and speedy recovery.

Better have them double-check your liver while they're in there - you only have one of those.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dear Madame Zoltar

Hello, childrens, hello! Happy Thanksgiblet to you all!

I thought I might not make my deadline this week. All because of a shameless hussy, namely Lisa Marie, a local “phychic” who runs the ad at right in the Journal Times.

How dare she horn in on my territory without even the courtesy of a how do you do? I called this scammer up and made an appointment under an alias. You should’ve seen the look on her face when she saw me, Mme. Zoltar, sitting in her parlor. “I don’t care if you were married to Wacko Jacko,” I yelled as I flung Serbian beetle dung dust at her, “you don’t dis me in my hood without paying the price!” Things deteriorated rapidly from there. By the time the police and fire department arrived, I was running late. I astral projected out of there and to my personal computer to get this blog composed. Before I left, though, I got in a good shot to her jaw, saying, “I get 20% off the top, bitch, or they find you at the bottom of a wishing well.” Needless to say, I predict prompt submission of my royalties.

I am so glad that I made it back in time to respond to a question from the resplendent Ms. kkdither, who wrote:

Dear Madame,

I am somewhat anxious about the upcoming cook-a-thon. I haven't had the responsibility to make the whole shebang myself in years. The turkey already almost broke my finger (frozen heavy #$%^ came between me and the grocery counter) I'm wondering if you have any forboding as to the outcome of this spectacle... Specifically, how will my guests react when I "give them the bird?"

Sincerely anticipating your response,
p.s. I'll save a drumstick for you

Dear kk, you will be fine. The food will be fine. Your guests will be fine. Everything and everyone will be fine, except, of course, the bird, which will be cooked. Thank you for being one of millions of tireless souls who labor so hard in our kitchens that millions more may share in a Thanksgiving meal.
P.S. And a little stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberries, too?

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and that we all find much in our lives to be thankful for.

Don’t forget, you can always contact me about your concerns or questions at

See you next week, dearies, or be L7.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

JTI Forum?

I was messing around and created a JT Irregulars forum on a free hosting site: It is a phpBB forum and it's currently set to require registration to post, but anybody can read. As I understand it, ads will soon start popping up on the site to "finance" it. Anyway, I wouldn't suggest using your primary email address to register. I have no idea if anyone will be interested in anything like this, so you can poke around and try it out if you want. If you have any suggestions for subforums, or anything else, please don't be shy. Anything can be created. Moderators can be appointed for subforums. This type of board has private messaging.

I put a link to it in the Features section on the sidebar so that it can be easily accessed. We'll see if it catches on.

Angry conservatives

Why is it when a liberal debates a conservative, 95% of the time when things get angry, it's the conservative releasing smoke? Name calling, threats, anger, it all comes to the surface. Recently I attempted to find a middle ground and was told bluntly there was no middle ground. Even when I moved to the Right in my possition, the conservative couldn't or wouldn't move at all from his steadfast possition. During the discussion the next thing to happen was the Wolf Pack attack.

I'm getting tired of being steam rolled and the one thing I've seen is that people with Liberal persuasion just stop the debate once the level of abuse gets so far. During this talk, a person I've resapected and admired out of the blue lashed out that I "Lusted to take away his wealth." I've always felt he worked hard for it and deserved it. We weren't even talking about such things, but off the wall this came out.

On another website Obama was being maligned as not being worthy of being a President because he had no experience in the military. I pointed out that Bush went AWOL for a year which got covered up by losing his records (Now how many of us have had our records lost?), and there were questions about McCain's version of the Forestal fire and his leaving the ship on a helicopter full of reporters without permission to do so. Palin needed five colleges to get her degree and had no military experience either. The venom that unleashed was shocking.

Something that has been said and repeated is that (oh gosh) Obama is the ANTICHRIST and we're all in for it now. When it is pointed out that the Rapture hasn't happened and shoots that bit right in the foot, it's again, anger and cries that I must be a liberal. Huh? A Liberal atheist that knows the Bible better than a psuedo Thumper?

If the rhetoric is questioned, fight it with flame. If the facts don't bear out, fight the truth with flame. If someone tries to find a middle, fight that with flame. When I've been shown I'm wrong, I make a change and relook at what I believe. I have never seen a conservative give an inch. No, that's wrong. It happens so rarely it feels like never.

Interesting enough, one conservative said that he found that Supreme court justices that changed the interpretation of the constitution were all liberals. That gay marriage should be banned on a constitutional level. That anyone that claimed the constitution was living and breathing should play poker with him. He'd make sure the rules we played by were "living and breathing" also. I told him "I'd be glad to play when he told his wife she was a second class citizen and didn't deserve the vote. I mean what better example to show that yes, the constitution has been changed and today we take it for granted, but at the time conservatives fought tooth and nail because to allow the female vote would hurt them in some obscure way." Whoa, the venom that statement unleashed.

Just getting tired of our divided country. Tired of fingers in the ears LA LA LA LA refusal to consider anything but the lockstepped Rush Lambaug conservative platform. When people are asked to defend their views, a general assertion that"Its just wrong or right" doesn't cut it. Be prepared to say why you think it's wrong or right and defend that possition. Denying another the same freedoms you expect should have a much better argument than, "God, you must be a Liberal."

The Big Picture: The ISS

Look, enjoy. The Big Picture: The International Space Station.

Penn and Teller: Magic With a Message

I am in Vegas now and saw Penn and Teller last night. Wonderful show, but two segments stood out in particular.

The first was an illustration of the tricks of the trade for psychics and people who claim to channel the dead and such mumbo jumbo. Penn made quite clear his opinion of these people (they are lying slime taking advantage of people) before illustrating multiple ways they do readings with audience members. Each time he used joke books and had people randomly select jokes. His cold reading was amazing...the guy was visibly nodding and shaking his head, totally subconsciously, allowing Penn to zero in on the joke he choose.

The second part stated with a U.S Flag onstage. They took it down and folded it (in the little triangle just like you are supposed to). They took out a copy of the Bill of Rights and wrapped it around the flag. They then set the flag on fire (not really...they switched it out for a bunch of flash paper) and he said, "The Flag is gone, but the Bill of Rights remains." Which one is more important...which would you rather lose? They then took out a sheet of clear film to represent China's Bill of Rights (there isn't one) and repeated the trick. At the end, the flat magically appeared on the flagpole again and they were both looking at it reverently as the lights blacked out. It has mercifully been a few years since a bunch of yahoos have tried to get that Flag burning amendment passed. Next time it comes up, Penn and Teller should do this routine for the entire House and Senate. Anyone who votes for an amendment banning flag burning after seeing this is too stupid to serve in Congress.

Will Ya Look At That......I'm Dead

Have you ever glance at the obits or death notices to find your name listed?

"Government announces new loan programs"

In related news, the government also announced that "a thousand gazillion jillion megabillion dollars" are going to be rocketed into the sun in an effort to jump start solar power.

According to one unidentified Treasury official, "We're not going to stop until every last penny of America's money is spent in one way or another. You can rest assured that we are responding to the economic meltdown by mortgaging your and your descendants' future as rapidly as we possibly can."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brand New Angel

Gov't Mule is a side project for Allman Brothers Band guitar extraordinare Warren Haynes. Formed in 1994 with Matt Abts on drums and Allen Woody on bass. I was fortunate to see this line up in concert where they backed up Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes at the Marcus Ampitheatre in Milwaukee on 6/29/2000. Allen died two months later.

The band carried on looking for a new bass player. This search resulted in three LP's worth of music containing famous bass players like Roger Glover from Deep Purple,Les Claypool from Primus,Jack Bruce from Cream,Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers,Jason Newstead from Metallica,Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead,and many many more. They settled on an unknown bass player Andy Hess. Danny Louis joined the fold as the keyboardist.

They recently released a live DVD, A Tale of 2 Cities,which I acquired about 2 weeks ago. This song is on it. It also can be found on their 2006 classic,High and Mighty

My friend Irregulars,I present Brand New Angel. Enjoy!

More information on Gov't Mule.
Information on their setlists
The LP's I recommend are:their debut LP and High and Mighty.

The Big Picture: Dubai

Dubai has been getting a lot of press coverage recently (at least in the press I read and listen to!) due to its extraordinary growth and wealth. This week's Big Picture from the Boston Globe focuses on Dubai. Of the many remarkable images this week, perhaps the most striking is one of the Burg Dubai.
It is already the world's tallest freestanding structure and will be 2684 feet tall (over half a mile) when complete. Looking at all the images in this collection, I wonder how much longer until they have a crash of epic proportions...or replace the U.S. as the land of conspicuous consumption.

The Process of Choice and Our Fickle Brains

I just listened to the new episode of Radio Lab and the theme this week is choice. How do we make choices in life? How can marketers and politicians influence these choices? How much free will do we really have?

One segment highlights Baba Shiv's work on fruit and cake. Which would you choose if offered a piece of chocolate cake or fruit salad? Okay, now what if you were distracted? What Shiv did take two groups of people. One group was asked to memorize a seven digit number and the other group a two digit number (the subjects were told this was a memory thing I remember from my college sociology courses is that you always lie to the subjects about the purpose of the study!) After they memorized they numbers, they were offered a choice between cake and fruit salad. The peope that memeorized the longer number were much more likely to choose cake. We all know that fruit is better for us, but when you distract the brain by asking it to memorize a long number, then the impulsive side comes out and we do things we know aren't quite so good for us.

Another segment focuses on Lawrence Williams research on the connections between physical sensations and emotional judgements. He has subjects hold a cup of hot or cold coffee as they read a description of a person. The people holding the hot coffee described the person they read about as having a "warmer" personality. Could your opinions of Obama and McCain depend on whether you were drinking a cup of hot coffee or an ice cold soda when you watch their speeches? Research says yes.

Another segment was on how casinos keep players gaming. Casinos use those loyalty cards to keep track of how much people lose before they quit playing. As you near that limit, that is when the casino sends someone over and offers you the free tickets or dinner or some other little incentive to make you happy, forget your losses, and keep playing (I am going to Vegas for the first time tomorrow due to the fact that hotels are criminally cheap right before Thanksgiving...however, I know the odds and don't gamble and the only coins I am going to drop into a machine are going to be at the Pinball Hall of Fame Museum).

I am sure most people like to sit back and think they are too smart to fall for such tricks. However, it is important to remember that you are not even aware of the most effective ways people manipulate the choices you make. The very layout of stores is designed to get you to spend more (to say nothing of the maze that is your average casino!) I am very analyitical but Shiv's research shows one way to get to me is to overwhelm me with information.

As prevelant as these techniques are in our world, they receive very little coverage outside of academic journals. Media has little interest in covering them since they make their money from advertisers who frequently use these techniques! With our current economic downturn, you can bet retailers are going to be emptying their arsenal in the next few weeks to part you from your dollars.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.